Monday, 16 July 2012

Two Cheers for General Synod!

Several years ago I was elected as a clerical member of General Synod. I attended one session, then at our next Diocesan Synod made sure somebody else was nominated. At the time I was mystified at how a meeting of the Church's brightest and best could be so excruciatingly dull, and astounded at how little any of what was discussed had to do with my life and work as a parish priest. Perhaps I have matured; perhaps the church has changed; perhaps both; but on any account I found this General Synod to be vital and engaging.... for the most part.

For me, the highlights were these:
  • The discussion on marriage. This was the only opportunity to raise the matter of sexuality which is the elephant in the room of  many of our other discussions, for example the Anglican Covenant.On both sides of the issue people made informed contributions in a respectful and honest way. Some of the contributions were deeply, deeply moving, particularly those from two synod members (one on the "conservative" side of the debate, one from the "liberal" but both of whom had a very orthodox theology ) who were parents of gay children.
  • The discussion on asset sharing. I have mentioned this before, and there has been a bit of a discussion in the comments to one of my posts, so I won't bore you with repetition.
  • The presentation from our youth commission and the very intelligent , innovative and eminently workable process they have arrived at for the development of youth ministry.
  • The powerful opening worship, and particularly, the evidence it gave to the robust state of youth work in the Diocese of Polynesia.
  • The presentation from the Centre for Women's Studies and the astonishing amount of stuff they have managed to do on a minuscule budget.
  • The great progress made in reforming St. John's College.
However there were aspects of General Synod which recalled the stuff I tried so hard to avoid in years gone by:
  • The fact that we spent hours and hours on comparatively minor matters, such as reading through reports which everyone had already read before arrival, and consequently....
  • ... the severely curtailed debate on the most important matters before us, including the sexuality debate, the asset sharing discussions and...
  • ...the resounding silence which followed the descriptions, in IDC,  by Bishop Victoria Matthews and myself of the challenges facing our respective dioceses.
There were times in other words, when we were right on track as together we tried to forge the church that will emerge during the course of the 21st Century, but there were times when we were hopelessly bogged by our accustomed ways of doing things. At this General Synod we fare welled some of the elders of our church, and I couldn't help but notice the age range of many of us left. Given that General Synod meets only every two years, there is a vast majority of members who will be there for two, or at most three more synods. But waiting in the wings is a small but encouragingly talented phalanx of younger people. When those of my generation or older all fall off the perch together there will be some who are able to take our place. More than able, in fact.

No comments: